Nunavut MLAs suspend Nuqingaq until July 16
Uqqummiut MLA enters 60-day treatment program
(Updated 4:40 p.m., May 22)
Nunavut MLAs on May 22 voted once again to suspend Uqqummiut MLA Sam Nuqingaq from the legislative assembly and its committees.
Nuqingaq, 42, did not attend the May 22 sitting of the house that heard the motion.
The motion, made by Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq, said that Nuqingaq has voluntarily entered a 60-day counselling program at a residential treatment centre to deal with “personal issues that have contributed to the member’s unacceptable conduct.”
His suspension — with pay — ends July 16 — after his 60-day counselling program is over.
The MLA for Tununiq, Joe Enook, said he believes Nuqingaq left for the counselling program sometime over the past two weeks.
Nuqingaq is suspended with pay for the period covered by the new suspension, the clerk of the legislative assembly John Quirke confirmed with Nunatsiaq News.
Premier Peter Taptuna told reporters after the motion that Nuqingaq has entered the counselling program to deal with substance abuse.
“I believe it’s substance abuse,” Taptuna said. “We’re all quite happy that he’s gone to take that.”
This past March 6, MLAs suspended Nuqingaq from the entire winter sitting of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.
That suspension would have been lifted May 22, but is now replaced by a suspension with pay.
He now faces two criminal charges: one charge of assaulting another man, Tony Alan Aulaqiaq, and one charge of being unlawfully in a dwelling-house, relating to an incident alleged to have occurred Feb. 24 in Qikiqtarjuaq.
But Taptuna said the new suspension is “not necessarily related to the charges.”
“In this country, and in Nunavut, everyone is deemed innocent until proven guilty. And he’s taken the time to take this counselling. And with the rehab program outside of Nunavut, it’s just a formality,” Taptuna said.
Nuqingaq was suspended the first time around because of his absence from regular members caucus and other meetings, Taptuna said.
Nunavut’s justice minister, Paul Okalik, did not vote in the motion to suspend Nuqingaq.
Okalik said it would be inappropriate for him to vote because part of the matter is before the courts and, as he told media, “I appear to be the justice minister.”
Taptuna said Nuqingaq voluntarily sought help on his own, but also said his colleagues encouraged him to take time off to deal with his substance abuse.
“Ninty-nine point nine per cent of the people are encouraged when they do take counselling.
“There’s no doubt that there’s folks, his colleagues, were encouraging him. Of course his family members too,” Taptuna said.
Ultimately, Taptuna said the suspension is sending a message.
“It’s an indication that we don’t condone that type of activity,” Taptuna said.
Taptuna said that he understands that his constituency members are frustrated, “but the encouraging thing is that he’s gone to take counselling and rehab.”